A fisherman who was among the first on the scene when a jet crashed into Tanzania’s Lake Victoria on Sunday, killing 19 people, has spoken about his attempts to save the pilots who were trapped in the cockpit and how he almost perished while doing so.
Majaliwa Jackson has been recognized as a hero, given 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($430; £370), and been given the opportunity to join the fire and rescue brigade.
Before the government statement, Mr. Jackson told the BBC that he panicked when he saw the passenger plane approaching from the incorrect way and then crashing into the lake. Mr. Jackson was speaking from his hospital bed in the lakeside hamlet of Bukoba.
Along with three other fishermen, he arrived at the scene quickly and assisted in breaking open the plane’s back door so that those trapped within could be rescued.
Then, according to Mr. Jackson, he moved to the front and dove into the sea. The two pilots then used signs to communicate with one another through the cockpit window.
“He told me to rip the window screen open. When airport security arrived, I asked them if they had any tools we could use to destroy the screen as soon as I got out of the water.
“They gave me an axe, but a man with a loudspeaker prevented me from stumbling down and breaking the screen. He claimed there was no water leak in the cockpit and that they were already in contact with the pilots, according to Mr. Jackson.
After being halted, he continued, he “dived back and waved goodbye to the pilot.”
The pilot, however, later said he still desired rescue.
“He showed me where the cockpit emergency door was. I swam back to the surface and grabbed a rope, tying it to the door. We attempted to pull it with the help of other boats, but the rope snapped, hitting me in the face and rendering me unconscious. I was here in the hospital when I awoke “Jackson stated.
The plane, which was being operated by Tanzania’s largest private airline, Precision Air, crashed close to the lake’s edge, leaving 19 confirmed dead, including both pilots.
According to Precision Air, there were 24 survivors out of the 43 individuals on board.
At a memorial service on Monday conducted at the neighborhood football stadium in Bukoba, mourners paid respects to the 19 victims.
Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa declared during the service that the government would pay for the burials.
He had earlier promised a thorough investigation to determine what caused the collision.
On Sunday, the aircraft departed from Dar es Salaam, the nation’s economic hub, and made a scheduled stop in Mwanza. As the aircraft approached Bukoba Airport at around 08.50 local time (05.50 GMT), it crashed.
Airport operations have been suspended until further notice.